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Chord Huei Phono Preamp Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Chord Huei phono stage/pre-amplifier. It was kindly sent to me by a member. The Huei costs US $1,495.

The Huei is one of the most exquisite and nicest implementation of the Chord design language:

Chord Huei Phono Stage Preamplifier Stereo Review.jpg


The unit weighs a ton and feels like excellently machined and finished piece of desktop audio. The back is even prettier than the front:

Best phono stage preamp review back panel XLR Balanced Moving Coil Moving Magnet.jpg


The shiny RCA jacks look and feel like jewelry. And I love the inclusion of the balanced XLR output to help reduce impact of noise and hum that RCA connections bring.

Despite all of the above, the functional design of the Huei is a total fail! If you are familiar with Chord products you know that they use colored LEDs to communicate the status of some setting. That makes the device difficult to operate due to the need to then remember the color of the button meaning different things. Here, that design has been taken to level of insanity with many settings encoded into colors. Take the impedance settings for moving magnet mode. These are the color indicators:

Chord Huei Phono Stage Gain Settings.png


Are they crazy? Who the heck remembers these colors? No, you don't just set it and forget it. You can touch a button by accident and have it be a different impedance and you would not know it. They give you a cheat sheet that is tiny and definite proof of user interface fail.

Gain settings are not as numerous but you still have 7 or 8 to remember.

If you are going to have a microprocessor, why not have a proper display indicating what is going on? The whole design theses was a mistake to being with and now it is absurdly bad.

Chord Huei Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard using my preferred XLR Output with gain set similarly to other phono stages:

Chord Huei Phono Stage Audio Mesaurements.png


Whoa. What happened here? That low frequency noise is hugely high and is setting SINAD to its dismal value. You would think with high noise distortion can be hidden but even that is bad enough to show up as second and third harmonics. Teasing the two aspects apart we get:

Chord Huei Phono Stage Noise and Distortion Ratio Audio Mesaurements.png


Good grief. Using the sum SINAD in our ranking, the Huei finishes dead last:

Best phono stage preamp review.png


Thought maybe balanced output has a problem so I measured RCA out and got the same response:

Chord Huei Phono Stage RCA Audio Mesaurements.png


Here is the spectrum of noise with no input signal (but terminated):

Chord Huei Phono Stage Noise Spectrum Audio Mesaurements.png


The Huei is an incredible 45 dB worse in noise department than bargain Emotiva XPS-1. The Emotiva costs less than 10% of Huei!

Sadly there is more bad news. Here is the frequency response:

Chord Huei Phono Stage RIAA Equalization Audio Mesaurements.png


What is with peaking high frequencies? The error goes up to 1.2 dB at 20 kHz but company says they comply to ±0.1 dB?

No, we are not done. There is a rumble filter but it does absolutely nothing!

Chord Huei Phono Stage Rumble Filter Audio Mesaurements.png


I tested this multiple times and even powered the unit on and off and it still does nothing. The switch goes from off to white as documented but nothing happens as far as filtering. Company says it starts to roll off from 50 Hz.

Edit: Looks like the rumble filter is not just a high-pass so disregard the above.

The only blessing here is good bit of headroom:

Chord Huei Phono Stage Input vs distortion overload Audio Mesaurements.png


Interesting that the MC mode with its higher gain has much lower noise (although still bad). The lower input impedance may be helping there.

Conclusions
It is hard to imagine a phono stage being broken in so many aspects then the Chord Huei. Almost unusable interface. Huge amount of noise and fair bit of distortion. RIAA equalization that is not accurate, nor spec compliant. And Rumble filter that does nothing. The only thing it has going for it is that it is pretty!

Can't imagine a company like Chord producing something like this (other than the UI). They are known for needlessly overengineered DACs but otherwise performance is excellent. Not so here.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Chord Huei in any form or fashion. In my opinion it should be pulled from the market and redesigned.

------------
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Cortes

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#5
haha what's the lyrics of Chord on this?. How many taps, filters, recovery of lost bits?.
 

BDWoody

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#6
It is hard to imagine a phono stage being broken in so many aspects then the Chord Huei. Almost unusable interface. Huge amount of noise and fair bit of distortion. RIAA equalization that is not accurate, nor spec compliant. And Rumble filter that does nothing. The only thing it has going for it is that it is pretty!
Sounds like some of the women I've dated...
 

dougi

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#7
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #9
Note hifi world did some tests where noise was OK.
He used a-weighting filtering which gets rid of the low frequency noise:

1604786250437.png
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #10

3125b

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#11
That's just awful in every way.
Even disregarding performance and price completely the user interface is just terrible. Who the hell came up with that?
 

Doodski

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#12
That's just awful in every way.
Even disregarding performance and price completely the user interface is just terrible. Who the hell came up with that?
All savings in that US $1495.00 retail cost needed to be realized. :facepalm:
 

Blumlein 88

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#13
You have the EMOTIVA listed as EPS-1when it is XPS-1 though it does link to the proper review.


Reading reviews by other publications is something. Many touting how quiet it is, and how great it sounds.
 

DuncanTodd

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#14
Where are those 12 LEDs located on the device? They are not showing on the front/back pics. I'm not familiar with their designs.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #16
Where are all those LEDs located on the device? They are not showing on the front/back pics. I'm not familiar with their designs.
The round bubble buttons change color themselves.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #17

phoenixdogfan

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#18
I think a 1950's Sci Fi movie esthetic informs their design language. Just watch something like "This Island Earth" or "Forbidden Planet" and you can see what I mean.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #20
Ah, thanks. Thought there is a nice little disco show going on there :D
Sadly they are not that bright which adds to usability issue.
 
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